Latvia's Foreign Minister calls for more NATO forces in Eastern Europe

Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs on January 24 made an unambiguous call for an even larger NATO presence in its Eastern European member states than is currently the case.

Writing on Twitter, Latvia's longest-serving Foreign Minister said that because of the continued build-up of Russian and Belarusian forces "It is time to increase allied forces presence in the Alliance's Eastern flank both as measures of defense and deterrence."

Earlier, Rinkēvičs wrote on the Facebook platform that the Latvian Embassy in Ukraine continues to operate in full, though plans for the evacuation of the embassy have been drawn up and can be initiated if necessary. "We are constantly evaluating the security situation and will act accordingly," he said.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs calls on Latvian citizens not to travel to Ukraine and especially to the Luhansk and Donetsk regions without urgent need.
 
EU foreign affairs ministers are currently meeting in Brussels in a session that includes an exchange of views on the security situation in Europe with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken via video teleconference, making the timing of Rinkēvičs statement particularly noteworthy. 
 
Later on Monday a statement from the Latvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs expanded on Rinkēvičs' thinking.
 
"In view of the drastic deterioration in security conditions at the EU and NATO border escalated by a massive build-up of Russia’s forces near the eastern border of Ukraine and in Belarus, the Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs called for expanding the presence of NATO’s Allied forces, including those of the USA, in the Baltic Sea region," the statement said.
 

"Edgars Rinkēvičs expressed Latvia’s support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, underlining the need for progress in negotiation in the Normandy Four format. No delay is permissible with devising additional measures to build Ukraine’s resilience and strengthen its defence capabilities, underlined the Minister, adding that Latvia is prepared to deliver both lethal and non-lethal equipment to Ukraine."

"The Latvian Foreign Minister stated a position that, in its relations with Russia, the EU should retain unity and an approach driven by principles laid down by the European Union. The Russian Federation’s unilateral demands concerning security guarantees and revision of the European security architecture, which poses increased risks to stability and security, cannot be the basis for further talks, Edgars Rinkēvičs underlined. Latvia supports diplomatic contacts with Russia in NATO, the OSCE and the USA-Russia dialogue. The EU must continue with its support for the strengthening of Ukraine’s resilience and the preparation of strong sanctions on Russia, the Minister noted," according to the MFA statement.

  
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